Christ's Work for His Church, Resulting in Sanctification.
The glory of Christ in His work of salvation:
v. 9. For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
v. 10. And ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power;
v. 11. in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;
v. 12. buried with Him in Baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead.
v. 13. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
v. 14. blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to is cross;
v. 15. and having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
The apostle here brings his reasons for admonishing the Christians to lead such lives as are conformable to the high character of their calling. In the first place, they have part in the fullness of His Godhead: Because in Him dwells the entire fullness of the Godhead bodily. Here is a plain and unmistakable asseveration of the deity of Jesus Christ. Paul does not merely state that He is divine, that He has some attributes of God, but he says that the deity, the essential majesty of the Godhead, dwells in Him bodily, according to His body. The fullness of the Godhead assumed human nature in the person, in the body, of Jesus Christ. When the Son of Mary was born at Bethlehem, the eternal Word, the Son of God from eternity, became man; when the Prophet of Nazareth died on the cross, God Himself died, for in His body the fullness of the divine Godhead lived; the fullness of the essential deity had been communicated to Him in such a manner that it partook of all the functions of the human body. Since the same Christ has ascended to the right hand of the majesty of God, it is our Brother, our flesh and blood, in whom the fullness of the eternal Godhead dwells bodily.
In this fullness the believers take part: And it is in Him that you are made full, who is the Head of all principality and power. In Christ the believers reach their full life, in fellowship with Him through faith they are filled with all the fullness of God, Eph_3:19. They have life, divine, abundant, active, fruitful life, in Him, Joh_10:11. In Him they come behind in no gift, 1Co_1:7. This fact ought to have all the greater influence upon the believers since this Christ who lives in them with His gracious power is the Head of all principality and power. The entire universe, including the domain of all the angels, both good and bad, is subject to Him. Therefore we also, to whom this fullness has been imparted, fear no power on the earth or under the earth, since we have Christ on our side, since we are united with Him by the bonds of the most perfect union.
The Christians, furthermore, have in Christ regeneration and a new life through Baptism: In whom you also were circumcised with a circumcision not performed with hands, in the stripping off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ. The apostle here, in addressing a congregation which consisted chiefly of Gentile Christians, compares the sacrament by which they were received into the Church with that by which the Jews of old were made members of the outward people of God. This sacrament is not, indeed, like the circumcision which was performed with hands, in a slight operation upon the body, but it is a sacrament in which the body of the flesh is put off, in which the old, sinful nature of man is laid aside like a filthy garment, never to be donned again. A circumcision of Christ the sacrament is called by which the believers of the New Testament are joined to the Church of Christ. All believers in Christ are in full possession of all the promises which were given to Abraham to apply to all nations. Through this sacrament of admission all believers have become a peculiar people, a people consecrated to the Lord.
The apostle now says expressly what he has reference to: Buried with Him in Baptism, in whom you also were raised up through the faith of the operation of God, who raised Him from the dead. The circumcision of Christ, the stripping off of the sinful nature in man, is Baptism. That is the visible means by which the Lord works regeneration in our hearts. The old Adam in us was mortally wounded when the Lord received us as His own in Baptism. So the figure is consistently carried out: We were buried with Christ by Baptism into death, Rom_6:4, because in Baptism we became partakers of all the spiritual gifts which He earned for us by His entire life, death, and resurrection. Buried with Christ and dead to sin, we now, through the effective working of the word in Baptism, become partakers also of Christ's resurrection: We are raised with Him. The blessings of His redemption are transmitted to us through faith. Not, indeed, as if even this faith were our own meritorious work, for it is a faith of the operation of God. When we were dead in trespasses and sins, He quickened us together with Christ, Eph_2:1-6. He wrought faith in our hearts through the Sacrament of Baptism. It was a proof of the same divine power by which God raised up Jesus from the dead. Note: The casual comparison between circumcision and Baptism in this passage affords a very strong argument in favor of infant baptism; for the rite of circumcision, as practiced by the Jews, had to take place on the eighth day, and Baptism is spoken of as being parallel to circumcision.
The third great benefit of our union with Christ is this, that we now have the assurance that all sin and guilt is forgiven: And you being dead through trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made you alive with Him, having forgiven us all trespasses. The apostle here presents the work of regeneration much as in Eph_2:1-6 : When the Colossians were dead through, by reason of, their sins, when they were lying in spiritual death and were subject to eternal damnation. That this was a lasting condition of the Gentiles, Paul indicates by speaking of the uncircumcision of their flesh. He is speaking of a spiritual condition, Deu_10:16; Jer_4:4, of the sensuous, sinful nature of natural men, of their inherited state of disobedience and enmity toward God. While they were in that condition of spiritual death, while they had no longing for spiritual life, when all their thoughts were at variance with God's holy Word and will, then it was that God quickened them, made them alive with Christ, made them partakers of the resurrection and of the life of Christ. Paul here skillfully changes his address from the second to the first person, thus softening the harshness of the passage and including himself as a recipient of this blessing. This great gift, this wonderful blessing of being awakened to spiritual life, was transmitted to us by the fact that God forgave us our trespasses; He graciously canceled the debt which was charged against us.
This miracle the apostle proceeds to describe in greater detail: Having blotted out the handwriting in ordinances that was against us, which was directly opposed to us, and He has taken it out of the way by affixing it to the cross. Without Christ the Law was before us like a bond or note of hand, made by us as the debtors in writing, always held before us as a debt which must be discharged. We were under obligation to keep the Law of God, its unfulfilled decrees were a continual accusation against us. No matter which way we turned for relief, there was the Law before our eyes, an insatiable creditor. But then Christ came and paid the entire debt of all mankind, He paid the guilt of all their sins, He secured a complete redemption for them all. Therefore the handwriting is blotted out, the note is canceled, its constant menace has been removed from between God and us. And here Paul, in his eagerness to impress the fact of this great truth upon his readers, uses the strongest possible figure: God has affixed the handwriting of our guilt to the cross. When Christ was crucified, laden, as He was, with the guilt of mankind, God thereby nailed the Law to His cross. Thus it shared in His death, thus it was abrogated, thus it was canceled. See 2Co_5:21; Gal_3:13. Thus there is no more guilt to condemn us, the Law no longer has power over us: Christ's death has brought us eternal life.
In Him, therefore, we also may triumph over all the powers that oppose us: Having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them with boldness, triumphing over them in it. God, being in Christ for the purpose of reconciling the world to Himself, while He was at the same time the great Ruler and Judge of the universe, made the principalities and powers the object of spoil and booty, He divested those spirits that were opposed to Him, the angels of darkness, of their authority and power. The evil spirits are now no longer able to accuse and condemn the Christians; one little word can fell them. In proof of the fact that the principalities of darkness had been fully conquered, God made a show of them openly, frankly, freely. It was done with that easy confidence and certainty which marks a complete, permanent victory. By virtue of this fact every Christian can point the finger of derision at the mighty spirit of evil, so long as he adheres to the Word, which makes him certain of the great victory. Yea, God has made a triumph of Satan and his host in the cross. Like a mighty general that has fully vanquished a dangerous opponent and is leading him along bound in fetters, so God made the Cross, otherwise the symbol of shame and sorrow, the sign of victory and final triumph over all His enemies. This entire victory, with all its blessings, is ours through the gift of God, by faith. We are victors over the kingdom of darkness, we can triumph over all our enemies, even here in time, and hereafter in one glorious hymn of triumph in all eternity.